Posts Tagged ‘Nonprofit-KnowHow’

Podcast: Reynolds on “Nonprofit-KnowHow”

We are interviewing authors of intriguing leadership and nonprofit texts to showcase more recommendations and best practices. Join us for our conversation with Rebecca Reynolds, author of “Nonprofit-KnowHow,” which was nominated for the 2012 Terry McAdam Book Award. Whether you’re a seasoned executive director or a new board member, you can benefit from Rebecca Reynolds’ Guide and Workbook, “Nonprofit-KnowHow.”

After 20 years of consulting experience in the sector, Reynolds decided to publish helpful information (the Guide) and tools (the Workbook) she had used to assist nonprofits to further their missions. This comprehensive two-volume manual integrates the theory and practice of nonprofit management subjects such as board governance, strategic planning, finance and fundraising. All her materials have been tested with hundreds of nonprofit organizations and can be referenced again and again.

Podcast: Listen to Reynolds discuss her invaluable resource, “Nonprofit-KnowHow,” in her own words here.


KR: Welcome to CausePlanet’s book preview series. I’m Kris Rutledge. I’m talking today with Rebecca Reynolds, author of Nonprofit-KnowHow. She is going to discuss her guide and workbook. Rebecca, thanks so much for joining us.

RR: Thank you, Kris.

KR: Could you start off by giving us an overview of Nonprofit-Knowhow?

RR: I’d be happy to. I began my 20-year consulting career working exclusively with nonprofits and I worked with hundreds of organizations of all sizes and missions. But, over the past five years or so, my work has taken a different direction. It really bothered me that all that material I had developed over years of consulting that had been so effective with my clients was just sitting there gathering digital dust. So, at the beginning of 2012 I decided to sit down and put it all together in an easy-to-use format to give broad access to this knowledge for nonprofits. So, Nonprofit-Knowhow is actually a comprehensive, direct and hopefully easy-to-use manual for effective leadership and management of nonprofit organizations. There are two parts to Nonprofit-Knowhow: the Guide and the Workbook. The Guide explains the important concepts and practices of the nonprofit sector that are often unknown or misunderstood. This know-how I’ve found makes the difference between a struggling nonprofit and a high-functioning one. The Workbook, on the other hand, is the action tool of the duo. Once the concepts and practices are clear, the next step is implementing. So the Workbook includes tools to make that implementation easy. For example, it has samples of other clients’ work to show exactly how something is done, like to develop a budget or to prepare a fundraising report. There are templates that people can fill in the blanks and go. There are exercises on how to do something like determine what contribution level board members should give. There are checklists, glossaries, diagrams, all kinds of material that I used and created to support my nonprofit clients over the years. So, it’s been well road-tested. The format of Nonprofit-KnowHow is eight chapters: four on key leadership capabilities like board leadership and development, strategic business planning, and finance and four chapters on fundraising, covering basics like Fundraising 101 and grant writing to more sophisticated skills like asking for money and capital campaigns.

KR: Thanks so much. So what would you say is unique about Nonprofit-Knowhow?

RR: First, most books written in the nonprofit sector, like most business books, treat one topic, such as board development or assessment or grant writing. When I was consulting with nonprofits, I found that it was often my ability to help clients see the connections between activities like strategic planning and board development and grant writing that really gained the client a quantum leap in their thinking and approaches. In fact, clients would hire me for one thing and soon we’d move into other areas that came up as a result. It was that agility and breadth of understanding that I developed in my own career in nonprofits as an intern, grant writer, development and marketing directors, and then as an executive director that I realized made an organization go from “good to great,” to use Jim Collins’ phrase. I wanted to share this integrated knowledge with many more organizations than I was able to do one at a time. Also, because I’m no longer consulting with nonprofits, I was free to include all my methods and templates and so on that I wouldn’t have when I was consulting because I was still using that material to earn my living. It was an incredible luxury for me to be able to do that.

KR: Wow, that sounds great. How would you suggest using the Guide and the Workbook together?

RR: How people use the Guide and the Workbook I think depends on their experience level in the nonprofit sector. For example, a seasoned executive director would use Nonprofit-Knowhow more as a reference tool, so the Guide they could look up in the index something and just get a check on how to do something or just sort of ground themselves with maybe even an idea about that. But they would also use the Workbook as a place to get templates for things that that executive director already knows they need, such as personnel policies. All experienced executive directors know that those are important so they wouldn’t necessarily need the explanation for that provided in the Guide but the sample personnel policies in the Workbook could save that same executive director a lot of time. On the other hand, a new board member would find the Guide a really important teaching tool, and an ED could use it to help orient and explain many important issues that are specific to the nonprofits. For example, why is fundraising an important asset to the nonprofit rather than a burden or an encumbrance, which many for-profit board members coming across to serve really don’t understand.

KR: Thank you so much for giving us this preview. How can we get Nonprofit-Knowhow and follow you?

RR: Nonprofit-Knowhow is available on the Nonprofit-Knowhow website. There I also a lot of other material to support nonprofits on the site, including our blog, Nonprofit Navigator, where we feature guest bloggers as well. Nonprofit-Knowhow is available on Amazon, too. We have a Facebook page, a LinkedIn page and our Twitter handle is @NPOKnowHow. We love connecting with new nonprofits and others supporting the important work they do, so we hope that people will check us out.

KR: Rebecca, this has been a great insight into your materials. For more on Rebecca Reynolds and related topics, visit us at Thanks again.

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Take your organization to the next level: prevent silos through integration

Delegation is necessary, but…

Nonprofit organizations, like any group working together for a common purpose, carve out certain activities in order to delegate them. For example, the board works on strategic planning, the development staff works on grant writing, the accountant sets up and monitors the financials and so on. This makes good sense–certainly everyone can’t (and shouldn’t) be involved with everything. That’s obvious.

What isn’t always as obvious, though, is when and how these activities should be brought back together.


In consulting with a wide range of nonprofits, I’ve found it’s often my client’s ability to see the connections between activities such as strategic planning, board development and grant writing that really gain the client a quantum leap in his/her thinking and approaches. So, while delineation and delegation of work activity is key to getting things done, if the results of those activities are not reconnected for the benefit of the whole, the organization suffers.

Example of siloing

For example, in many organizations, development people write grants for funding from major foundations. Since foundations ask crucial management questions, effective grant proposals express the nonprofit’s strategic approach to its mission and to the particular funding request. But even so, few if any board members–or in many cases, even executive directors–ever read the proposals. Nor in many cases did the grant writers have access to the organization’s strategic plan as the foundation for writing the proposals. This disconnect between two primary activities in the organization means a weaker, less effective grant proposal and a weaker, less-informed board.

And this is just one example of how the siloing of basic activities in a nonprofit can hinder its overall success.

How do you prevent silos?

What can be done about this? The most effective leaders think through what types of reintegration make the most sense and then develop the mechanisms in their organizations through which they will occur. For example, good budget development requires the information provided by past years’ financial statements and input from the key staff responsible for earned and contributed income. The leadership should develop policies and procedures to ensure cross-pollination between responsible board and staff members takes place in budget development as a matter of routine, rather than expecting (or assuming) it to happen as the result of the initiative of those involved.

In another example, fundraising and marketing campaigns should originate with the strategic plan, but too often these efforts are developed in isolation. This could be the result of the organization not having a strategic plan (or it being out-of-date) or it could be that the leadership has not made it clear these efforts must synchronize with each other. To address this, the leadership could pass a policy that all development and marketing materials must reflect the priorities and language of the organization’s strategic plan and then create procedures whereby the board  collectively reviews marketing and fundraising materials, e.g., the basic grant proposal template, on an annual basis. Not only would this ensure there is a strategic plan, the development staff has access to it, and the intersection of these efforts actually takes place, but also board members are up-to-date on what is being communicated about the organization.

This may seem obvious, but it’s surprising how often nonprofits struggle to delegate activities effectively and once this is accomplished, consider that the end of the matter. Or they chalk it up to a communication issue and assume the responsible individuals will take care of it. In fact, it is in the bringing of these delegated activities back together by the leadership that the real benefits are realized. This is because, simply, everything is connected to and impacts everything else in an organization. A culture that values and nurtures this synergy is what makes for a balanced,resilient, innovative organization–instead of a siloed, reactionary and defensive one.

Integration means going from “good to great”

The more the leadership of a nonprofit is fluent with the intersection between areas of major activity, the better able it will be to lead. This agility and breadth of understanding across the organization enables an organization to go from “good to great,” to use Jim Collins’ phrase. While specialized expertise in areas like development, planning, marketing, technology and finance is critical in today’s world, it is the leadership’s ability to integrate them-to see what is greater than the sum of their parts-that gets big results.

Nonprofit-KnowHow: The Guide and The Workbook supports nonprofit leaders in reintegrating often siloed activities such as strategic planning, fundraising, board development, finance and more, for greater resilience and impact.

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